Take a drive through the Mississippi Delta today and you’ll find a landscape dotted with memorials to major figures and events from the civil rights movement. Perhaps the most chilling are those devoted to the murder of Emmett Till, a tragedy of hate and injustice that became a beacon in the fight for racial equality. The ways this event is remembered have been fraught from the beginning, revealing currents of controversy, patronage, and racism lurking just behind the placid facades of historical markers.
In Remembering Emmett Till, Dave Tell gives us five accounts of the commemoration of this infamous crime. In a development no one could have foreseen, Till’s murder—one of the darkest moments in the region’s history—has become an economic driver for the Delta. Historical tourism has transformed seemingly innocuous places like bridges, boat landings, gas stations, and riverbeds into sites of racial politics, reminders of the still-unsettled question of how best to remember the victim of this heinous crime. Tell builds an insightful and persuasive case for how these memorials have altered the Delta’s physical and cultural landscape, drawing potent connections between the dawn of the civil rights era and our own moment of renewed fire for racial justice.